Chemicals We Use in Every Day Life

Chemicals make sure that we are given heat and power; allow us to buy clothing and goods; and ensures we have telecommunication, music and media wherever we may be.

Most of the changes that we see in the natural world around us are caused by chemicals reactions, such as the changing leaves and the growth of a flower.

Like we keep the benefits of chemicals in our life, we must also take care to treat them with respect so as to reduce potential harmful impact from exposure to them.

Chemicals used in daily life:

Cleaning products

Detergents contain an active surfactants or surface active material. Surfactants are able to reduce the tension of the water surface so that water can mix with oil or fat, which is why we wash our clothes with detergent – the chemicals allow the detergent to remove dirt in a liquid or solid form.

Similarly, the detergent ingredient that is in our shampoo has the ability to reduce the water surface tension, with the aim of thoroughly saturating the hair, allowing it to be cleaned. Shampoo also breaks down fat so that the grease that is in the hair is removed.

Toothpaste is composed of water and abrasives, such as aluminium hydroxide and calcium carbonate. It will also contain sweeteners, germ and microbe resisters, dyes, breath fresheners and an active substance which strengthens the tooth enamel and protects against cavities: sodium fluoride.

Clothing

Textiles used when making clothes will sometimes be finished by chemical processes to improve their characteristics. Finishing agents are used to strengthen fabrics and make them wrinkle free.

As the clothes are being manufactured, a textile may go through a range of chemical and non-chemical treatments. These include preparation and pre-treatment, dyeing, printing and refinement of fabrics. Some products used in textiles are highly specialised chemicals such as biocides, flame retardants, water repellents and warp sizes. Others are relatively simple chemicals or mixtures including emulsified oils and greases, starch, sulfonated oils, waxes and some surfactants.

Fragrances

A fragrance is ultimately an aromatic chemical compound that has a smell. These particular compounds are prone to vapourise, so that the smell reaches our noses. This is why a fragrance is often kepy in a bottle with a narrow neck.

The fragrance can be made with either natural or synthetic substances: most natural fragrances come from plants such as bark, flower, fruit, root or wood. As an example, the jasmone from jasmine, sassafras oil from sassafras woods, geraniol from rose and citrus from orange.

Perfume is a mixture of fragrant essential oils, or aroma compounds, fixatives and solvents that give our skin a pleasant scent.

Insecticides

An example of insecticide active substances used in houses are permethrin and tetramethrin. These synthetic chemicals work through attacking the insects’ nervous system.

Paints

There are many varieties of paint that specially made for certain materials: wood paint, iron paint, wall paint and car paint. Paints will either be oil based or water based depending on the solvent being used.

Paints are a mixture of ingredients – binders, pigmentation/colourants, additives and a solvent or carrier – that originate from fossil, mineral, biological and synthetic sources. The paint’s performance can be improved with additives, such as a fungicide to act against mould, coagulants to make the paint thicker and other substances that protect paints from water or sunlight.